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Fighting Islamist extremism on university campuses
Rupert Sutton's core business is monitoring Facebook groups - around 130 of them. He is on the lookout for signs of radicalism on British university campuses, mainly from "Islamist elements". As a researcher for Student Rights, a "non-partisan group dedicated to supporting equality, democracy and freedom from extremism", he gets tip-offs from atheist contacts and others in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community regarding visiting speakers. His goal, he says, is to ensure students attending these events get a balanced - and therefore less extremist - message.
It is not an easy job. Pressure on student societies to moderate their guests' hate-filled presentations can push them to simply take the event off campus. "There is a relationship between campus extremism and local religious institutions," Sutton says. "In a lot of cases, student societies will move their events off campus if there might be a controversial speaker involved". Earlier this year, London Metropolitan University refused to allow permission for one radical - who believed homosexuality should be a crime punishable by death - to come onto campus. The event was moved to a local mosque and since then all such events have been held at the mosque "completely bypassing any kind of oversight". It is quite common for student societies to close down social networking sites to public viewing at around this time, further increasing the group's isolation.
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